Hiking in the great outdoors is an ideal way to escape the daily grind and feel the amazing benefits of being close to nature.
If it sounds like an experience you’d love to share with your furry companion and you’d like to let him off the leash to give him as much freedom as possible, follow these top tips and you’re sure to have a wonderful adventure without upsetting your fellow hikers.
Practice off-leash etiquette
Hiking can be a rewarding activity for you and your pup but it’s no walk in the park. A lot more can go wrong when trekking through rugged landscapes so it’s important that your pup’s off-leash skills are on point to make sure the experience is safe as well as fun. Practice off-leash behaviour and help your dog to master commands like “sit”, “stay” and “come” in a controlled area like your local park or back garden before setting off on your first trail together.
Check the trail’s leash policy
Trails are public spaces that have their own sets of regulations on dogs. When planning your hike, be sure to check the local authority’s website to find out whether your intrepid pooch is allowed off leash before letting him roam free. Be mindful that everyone has the right to enjoy the trail in peace and for some that means without being jumped on by excitable pups. If the trail requires dogs to be on a leash, be a responsible owner and play by the rules. You could end up with a hefty fine if you don’t.
Research the area
Before setting off into uncharted territory, we recommend getting the lowdown on the local flora and fauna to see if you should be on the look out for anything poisonous or hostile. It’s also a good idea to find out about activities such as logging or hunting in the area as these could be dangerous for a wandering pup.
There’s plenty more that can harm you or your pup in the wilderness than in your local park. Be sure to bring a well-stocked first aid kit just in case either of your get any cuts or scrapes that need treating on your journey.
Bring the good snacks
Communing with nature may have a calming effect on us two-legged folk but we have a feeling that the exciting new sights and smells that your canine sidekick will encounter on your journey will have quite the opposite effect. This is especially true if the object of interest moves. Some seriously compelling treats will come in handy if you need to distract your pup from wild animals or get him to focus on you in a hurry.
Keep a leash to hand
While the idea of hiking off-leash is to give your pup as much freedom to explore as possible, you never know what might happen when you’re trekking through the wilderness. Always bring a leash with you, making sure it’s easily accessible in case the terrain and/or its wild inhabitants mean it’s safer to keep your dog close by. Also be aware that even some off-leash trails will require dogs to be on a leash in certain areas so keep an eye out for signs, be respectful of other hikers and put your dog on a leash if necessary. Check out our post on how to choose the perfect leash for your adventurous pup.
Bring plenty of water
We seem to mention this in all of our posts on exploring the great outdoors with your pooch, but it really is a must. Hiking is sure to make your dog work up a serious thirst. Our Pioneer Water Bowl is a great collapsible, portable dog bowl for your hike or camping trip. Stopping regularly to give your pup fresh, clean water will help to discourage him from drinking from any puddles or lakes that could contain bacteria, algae and other nasties that will upset his tummy.
During your hike, your adventurous pup may run ahead of you but remember you are always the pack leader and it’s up to you to keep your team safe. Stay focused and keep your eyes peeled for anything that could be dangerous such as other dogs on the trail or unfriendly local critters. Be proactive and call your dog back as soon as you spot a potential hazard.
Give way to oncoming traffic
Strange as it may seem, not everyone is fond of dogs. We’d like to think that most fellow hikers would be delighted to see your pup frolicking in the forest, but you never can tell. The last thing you want is for your dog to cause an upset so if you see any oncoming traffic we think it’s best to ask your dog to sit at the side of the trail and let it pass.
Pick up after your pup
You may be off the beaten track but that doesn’t mean you can leave the poo bags behind. In fact, your pup’s reputation depends on them. Keep some handy to clean up your dog’s mess along the way and dispose of it properly. Other trail users will thank you for it.